Fr John Sullivan SJ, was beatified today, in Gardiner Street Church, in the first ever beatification ceremony to take place in the Island.
Fr Sullivan is the first Trinity graduate to be beatified, one of the two highest posthumous honours that the Catholic Church can confer upon a person, and one that puts him one step away from being canonised.
Beatification, which bestows the title ‘Blessed’, means that a man or woman is considered to be truly holy and worthy of veneration at a local level. The process of investigation and research into the person’s life in order to grant these titles can take several years and sometimes even centuries.
The last step of this operation is recognising the attribution of a miracle to the candidate, something which Pope Francis approved on 26 April 2016.
The miracle attributed to Fr Sullivan happened in 1954 when Delia Farnham was praying to Fr. Sullivan and a cancerous tumour on her neck miraculously disappeared. Fr. Sullivan also cured people throughout his life, once curing the nephew of Michael Collins, who had a leg paralysis as a child.
The next stage after beatification is canonisation. Another attribution of a miracle would need to be approved for this to happen.
Born in 1861 into a wealthy Protestant family in Dublin. He was the son of Elizabeth Bailey, who was a Catholic, and his father was Edward Sullivan, a member of the Church of Ireland, a successful barrister and later the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. In 1872, his father sent him to do his primary and secondary education at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen.
Fr Sullivan went on to Trinity where he studied Classics, graduating in 1885 with a Gold Medal. After graduating, he started his studies in Law at Trinity probably wishing to follow his father’s chosen career.
In December 1896, after doing some travelling around Europe, he decided to become a Catholic. While the news surprised his family, they did not react in a hostile manner.
In 1900, just four years after his conversion, Fr. Sullivan decided to become a Jesuit. He was ordained a priest in 1907, and soon afterwards was appointed to the staff in Clongowes Wood College, where he spent most of his life as a teacher.
Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, was the main celebrant of the Mass and delivered the homily. Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin concelebrated with him.